One of the four agents which last week agreed to pay fines totalling £370,000 following a Competition and Markets Authority investigation into price fixing in the Somerset seaside town of Burnham-on-Sea has given its reaction to the case for the first time following the announcement.
The agents – which included Greenslade Taylor Hunt (GTH), Abbot and Frost, Gary Berryman and West Coast Property Services – admitted breaking competition law by colluding to set a minimum 1.5% commission fee for sales in and around the town.
Charles Clarke (pictured, left), Chairman of GTH, has said that the fine covered activities during 2014 and 2015 by the company’s local business.
He said that GTH cooperated with the CMA fully and that as soon as concerns were raised by the watchdog, an investigation of all offices and departments within the firm was undertaken. GTH is to pay the largest proportion of the total fine, at £186,054.
“We are entirely satisfied that this issue resulted from the wholly misguided and inappropriate actions of one GTH Partner, acting entirely alone, at one branch of our group and that no other office or department was involved in any way whatsoever,” he told Burnham-on-Sea.com.
“The partner’s actions at Burnham-on-Sea were undertaken with neither the consent or knowledge of other GTH Partners or staff at any other office in our organisation.
“Any discussion of commission rates, however informal, between competing businesses is not permissible and the firm condemns such behaviour in the strongest terms.
“Activity of this nature is a breach of GTH’s high ethical standards and is entirely inconsistent with the company’s long-established values. We profoundly regret what occurred at Burnham-on-Sea.”
Charles also said that the Partner concerned recognised that their actions were a gross misjudgement and that they had apologised to staff both locally and within the group. Discussions about the Partner’s future responsibilities are also on-going, he said.